It is a much debated argument and one that no amount of reading appears to clearly resolve. We did indeed post a blog back last year about solar energy, what it is and its benefits. Many articles that you read will leave you thinking that you have made your mind up….until you read another for the opposing argument and you then start to think again.
Using land that it agriculturally poor appears to be a way to decide on where these farms could be located. Many articles state that land can be used for multipurpose reasons, as animals such as sheep grazing in fields along with solar panels, works well. The panels provide shelter for the sheep, whilst there is still room for grazing and the grass under the panels is still able to grow, because light can still access the ground below them. From a financial viewpoint, some farmers are struggling to run their farms at a profit and solar farms may be a way of using the land that is not profitable for crop growing. The land is not disappearing by erecting permanent structures such as housing developments and retail units and indeed can be returned to its original state in the future. The energy generated from these cells can be used to power not only the general usages that we all think of, but also creating the storage of energy in batteries, such as those used for electric cars. One article suggests that farm machinery such as tractors could potentially be run on electricity using interchangeable battery packs.
However, land that is used for the solar farms is deemed to be a loss of beautiful landscape to many and they argue that there are plenty of huge buildings with vast roof areas that could be utilised for this purpose instead. Those against argue that the materials used in the manufacturing and disposal of the panels can offset what people believe are the benefits. The metals in the cells can leach into the groundwater when they are disposed of, as well as toxic compounds that can affect the workers and people’s health in the local vicinity, during the manufacturing process. In order to produce these panels, there are still fossil fuels that are used, which is something that we are all aware of the need to reduce our consumption of. The subsidies offered can make the idea seem like a more profitable choice and use for the land, but it is in reality a cost-benefit argument that we are unsure of whether is actually viable from a financial viewpoint. Another argument for the use of these farms is that if we are creating more energy, we are just going to naturally use more and possibly end up back where we are now.
We may believe that as technology improves and ways to produce the cells in a more cost effective and environmentally less detrimental way, we could see solar farms becoming a much more popular sight. However, you could also argue that maybe we need to deal with the root problem, which is that we are an ever increasingly over-populated planet and perhaps the way to make headway, without the use of any fuels, is simply to use less energy.